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July, 2010

  1. The Book of Mormon

    July 31, 2010 by Ryan

    Most books written today are authored for contemporary audiences. They are written to entertain or educate. The author usually hopes to gain some fame, or more importantly make money. The publishing company hopes to sell many copies of the book, paying royalties to the author and covering publication costs.

    The Book of Mormon ran very much counter to that model, however.

    It was written anciently by four major writers (Nephi, Jacob, Mormon, and Moroni) and a dozen different minor writers, over a time period separated from us by over 1,400 years. None of them ever saw a dime for their efforts, nor attended book signings for their adoring readers. These authors wrote with an intended audience of our day and age. As if to reassure us that this time lapse was not going to be an issue, Moroni explained that there was revelation and inspiration sent from above. He said, “I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.” i He was shown a vision of us, living in the last days and the dispensation of the fulness of times.

    If a miracle is defined as an event that defies conventional wisdom and explanation, then The Book of Mormon is nothing short of a miracle. From the faithful efforts that the ancient writers took to produce it; the miraculous preservation of the book until its modern discovery and translation, and the gift of translation and ability to be published in the place and time that it came about, it is by the grace and tender mercies of God that we can hold it in a convenient paperback copy in our hand today.

    Comparable to the Bible, the Book of Mormon combines limited historical information with prophecies and examples of faith demonstrated. In The Book of Mormon, the people are from two ancient American civilizations, between them covering a time period of approximately 2000 B.C. through 400 A.D. Unlike the Bible, most of the material was arranged and organized chronologically, and condensed in a sort of inspired “Reader’s Digest” format by Mormon, a prophet and historian. Mormon died before he could finish the last of the book, and his son Moroni finished the book according to his father’s instructions, and named the volume after his father. ii

    The purpose is not to be a secular history book. Mormon admitted “I cannot write the hundredth part of the things of my people.” iii Rather, it was to share the very best of the prophecies and faith-promoting experiences of the people. As Nephi finished his writings and handed the records over to his younger brother, he “gave me, Jacob, a commandment that I should write upon these plates a few of the things which I considered to be most precious; that I should not touch, save it were lightly, concerning the history of this people which are called the people of Nephi. For he said that the history of his people should be engraven [on other records]. … And if there were preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying, that I should engraven the heads of them upon these plates, and touch upon them as much as it were possible, for Christ’s sake, and for the sake of our people.” iv

    The process of writing a book that would survive the ages was not easy. It was certainly not like typing up a blog entry on the computer. It was not even as simple as putting pen to paper and scribbling out ideas. These authors were creating something to last, and they took care and craftsmanship to do it right. Joseph Smith, the modern-day discoverer and translator of the work, described the ancient manuscript this way. “These records were engraven on [metal] plates which had the appearance of gold; each plate was six inches wide and eight inches long, and not quite so thick as common tin. They were filled with engravings, in Egyptian characters, and bound together in a volume as the leaves of a book, with three rings running through the whole. The volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed. The characters on the unsealed part were small, and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction, and much skill in the art of engraving.” v

    Jacob described the process and purpose of writing like this: “… I cannot write but a little of my words, because of the difficulty of engraving our words upon plates. And we know that the things which we write upon plates must remain; But whatsoever things we write upon anything save it be upon plates must perish and vanish away; but we can write a few words upon plates, which will give our children, and also our beloved brethren, a small degree of knowledge concerning us, or concerning their fathers—Now in this thing we do rejoice; and we labor diligently to engraven these words upon plates, hoping that our beloved brethren and our children will receive them with thankful hearts, and look upon them that they may learn with joy and not with sorrow, neither with contempt, concerning their first parents.” vi

    What motivated them to “labor diligently” and do this? Their purpose was to declare the endless Lordship of Jesus Christ! Jacob explained “For, for this intent have we written these things, that they may know that we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming; and not only we ourselves had a hope of his glory, but also all the holy prophets which were before us.” vii His brother Nephi wrote, “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. … We are made alive in Christ because of our faith…. And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” viii

    It is also miraculous and insightful to recognize that Nephi, Jacob, Mormon, and Moroni were each eyewitnesses of the Lord. The translator of the work, Joseph Smith Jr, was also an eyewitness of the Lord. Thus, their testimonies of the Savior carry more weight, and should inspire the reader that much more. Their writings, and their lives, centered upon the Lord, His mission, and His ministry. Jacob, for example, repeatedly referred to the atonement and resurrection of Christ. “Beloved brethren,” wrote Jacob, “be reconciled unto [God] through the atonement of Christ, his Only Begotten Son, and ye may obtain a resurrection, … and be presented as the first-fruits of Christ unto God. And now, … why not speak of the atonement of Christ, and attain to a perfect knowledge of him,” and a “knowledge of a resurrection and the world to come?” Jacob’s advice is priceless and timeless. ix

    In the introduction of the Book of Mormon, it states that the book contains “the fulness of the everlasting gospel.” x Some have argued that because the Book of Mormon does not talk about every aspect of the church and its doctrines, it cannot contain a “fulness.” The “fulness” that this statement refers to, however, is something different. Jesus Himself defined “the everlasting gospel” when He taught, “This is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.” Then He amplified that one-sentence definition: “My Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me.” xi

    This unique mortal mission of the Lord—the gospel as He defined it—we know as the Atonement. The fulness of the gospel, therefore, connotes a fuller comprehension of the Atonement. Using that definition, the Bible also contains a fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, we do not obtain our complete and full understanding from a study of the Bible alone. Within the King James Version of the New Testament, the word atonement is mentioned only once. Within the Book of Mormon, it appears (in its various forms) 39 times! xii The Book of Mormon also contains more references to the resurrection than does the Bible. xiii

    The Savior referred to the Book of Mormon as His “new covenant” with the house of Israel. xiv It is a tangible sign of Christ’s culminating covenant with mankind. While it certainly could have been possible for the rise of the Church in the last days to have happened without it, how much better has it been to have this book, testifying of Christ anew and providing a sign of His love and concern for us today?! As a third testament, its divine teachings clarify doctrine and unify the Old Testament with the New Testament, and support the scriptural covenants, testaments, and witnesses since the beginning of time in regards toward the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the central act of all human history. The Book of Mormon is the most important religious text to be revealed from God to man “since the writings of the New Testament were compiled nearly two millennia ago.” xv Joseph Smith declared the Book of Mormon to be “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” xvi It is the only book that the Lord Himself has testified to be true. xvii

    Further evidence of the miracle is that the King James Version of the Holy Bible was produced by 50 English scholars over a period of 7 years. That roughly equates to translating at the rate of one page per day. Still today, expert translators do well if they can also translate scripture at the rate of one page per day. Joseph Smith, working only with a scribe, translated the Book of Mormon at the rate of about 10 pages per day, completing the task in about 85 days! xviii (Many of us feel good if we can read the book in that time.)

    It becomes even more remarkable considering the circumstances in which Joseph lived during those three months. During that time, he and his wife endured constant distractions and hostility. Enemies heard rumors that he talked with angels and had found gold, and sought to harass or steal. To get away from this, Joseph Smith moved more than 100 miles from Harmony, Pennsylvania, to Fayette, New York. He applied for a copyright to his book. He received 12 revelations which would eventually become sections of Doctrine and Covenants. xix Heavenly beings restored the holy priesthood. And yet, he still translated this book of literary, doctrinal, and Semitic complexity in less than three months time.

    Since the book’s introduction, some have rebelled against it, saying that we don’t need additional scripture beyond what the Holy Bible provided. Nephi foresaw that argument, and felt that the Lord would have responded by saying “Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.” xx

    When Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum started for Carthage, Illinois, knowing that they were headed for their own execution, Hyrum read these few short verses from the 12th chapter of Ether to comfort the heart of his brother: “Thou hast been faithful; wherefore . . . thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father. And now I, Moroni, bid farewell . . . until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ.” xxi Later, when incarcerated in the jail, Joseph the Prophet turned to the guards who held him captive and bore a powerful testimony of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. These action powerfully adds to the thousands of other small elements of testimony to the divinity of the Book of Mormon! In this their greatest—and last—hour of need, I ask you: would these men blaspheme before God by continuing to fix their lives, their honor, and their own search for eternal salvation on a book (and by implication a church and a ministry) which they had fictitiously created? xxii

    “No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.” xxiii

    Embrace the Book of Mormon! Come to full faith in this latter-day work! Find the fullest measure of peace and comfort in these “last days” – our times! Embrace the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom it testifies! Joseph Smith said that “he who reads it oftenest will like it best….” xxiv Read it ‘oftenest,’ and love the book. Let its witness of Jesus Christ enter your heart. The Book of Mormon is true! I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

    The Book of Mormon - Small Image Click here to receive a copy of the book for yourself.

    i Mormon 8:35

    ii The Book of Mormon, Introduction

    iii Words of Mormon 1:5

    iv Jacob 1:2-4

    v History of the Church, 4:536–41; from a letter from Joseph Smith written at the request of John Wentworth and George Barstow, Nauvoo, Illinois, published in Times and Seasons, Mar. 1, 1842, pp. 706–10.

    vi Jacob 4:1-3 (Punctuation altered to accommodate ellipsis)

    vii Jacob 4:4

    viii 2 Nephi 25:23-26

    ix Jacob 4:11–12

    x The Book of Mormon, Introduction; See also Doctrine and Covenants 27:5.

    xi 3 Nephi 27:13-14

    xii Romans 5:11; Atonement: 28 times; atone, atoning, or atoned: 8 times; plus atoneth: 3 times; equals 39 times. Within several verses, the word atonement appears more than once (see 2 Ne. 9:7; Alma 34:9; Alma 42:23).

    xiii The word “resurrection” appears 41 times in the King James Version of the Bible; it appears 81 times in the Book of Mormon.

    xiv Doctrine and Covenants 84:57 (see 54-58 for fuller context)

    xv Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon [1997], 9-10)

    xvi History of the Church, 4:461. See also The Book of Mormon, Introduction.

    xvii See Doctrine and Covenants 17:6.

    xviii From 7 April to 30 June 1829. After subtracting time spent for other contemporary tasks, working time available was closer to 55 days. The present edition of the Book of Mormon contains 531 pages. Assuming 55 days for the work of translation, the rate is calculated as 9.7 present-day pages per day. This estimate does not include the first 116 handwritten pages comprising “The Book of Lehi” that were lost and never re-translated.

    xix Sections 6–9 and 11–18

    xx 2 Nephi 29:8

    xxi Ether 12:37–38; see also D&C 135:5.

    xxii Jeffrey R. Holland, “Safety for the Soul,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 88–90

    xxiii George Cannon, quoted in “The Twelve Apostles,” in Andrew Jenson, ed., The Historical Record, 6:175.

    xxiv History of the Church, 2:11, 14; punctuation modernized; paragraph divisions altered; from “The Elders of the Church in Kirtland, to Their Brethren Abroad,” Jan. 22, 1834, published in Evening and Morning Star, Feb. 1834, p. 136; Mar. 1834, p. 142.

    One more acknowledgment must go to Russell M. Nelson’s address, “A Testimony of the Book of Mormon” (Ensign, Nov 1999, 69), from which much of my talk was based.

  2. Sneak Peek Entry

    July 9, 2010 by Glorajean

    (written and submitted by my sweetie)

    —– Forwarded Message —-
    Sent: Fri, July 2, 2010 7:42:19 PM
    Subject: Sneak Peek Entry

    Dear Provo Craft,
    I am writing to implore you to please NOT choose my wife, Glorajean, as the winner of your contest.

    You see, my wife and I live in a moderate-sized home. She keeps her scrapbooking supplies in our bedroom, and ‘scraps’ late into the night while I try to fall asleep nearby.

    The problem, as I hope you’ll understand, is that there really is not any more room for another “Next Big Thing.” Oftentimes, her project space spills over onto the bed and floor, making me dance carefully around the room to reach my clothes dresser without disrupting her work.

    Over time, I’ve become accustomed to falling asleep to the chirping of her Cricuts. The glow of the Gypsy has become a nightlight that I’ve adjusted to. But I am afraid that if we have one more “Next Big Thing” to try to fit into that room, I might be evicted from the space and have to setup a sleeping bag in the front room in order to accommodate it.

    Please understand that I love my wife dearly, and she is my entire world and more to me. I would never begrudge her hobby, or seek to withhold from her the happiness she finds in it. But just this one time, I hope you will not call Glorajean and let her know that she is a winner of your newest machine.

    A Scrapbooker’s Husband

  3. And what thank they for the Bible which they receive from them?

    July 8, 2010 by Ryan

    Recently they fired on of my favorite radio personalities, and so I had a void in my listening habits. I decided that even though the commute is a short 10-15 minute drive, I could fit something worthwhile into the timeslot. So I’ve been listening to MP3s of religious talks. It has been a good experience to use my drive for some pondering over important things.

    This one was impressive. Following is an excerpt from a talk by D. Todd Christofferson. (click here for the full text)
    On October 6, in the year 1536, a pitiful figure was led from a dungeon in Vilvorde Castle near Brussels, Belgium. For nearly a year and a half, the man had suffered isolation in a dark, damp cell. Now outside the castle wall, the prisoner was fastened to a post. He had time to utter aloud his final prayer, “Lord! open the king of England’s eyes,” and then he was strangled. Immediately, his body was burned at the stake. Who was this man, and what was the offense for which both political and ecclesiastical authorities had condemned him? His name was William Tyndale, and his crime was to have translated and published the Bible in English.

    Tyndale, born in England about the time Columbus sailed to the new world, was educated at Oxford and Cambridge and then became a member of the Catholic clergy. He was fluent in eight languages, including Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. Tyndale was a devoted student of the Bible, and the pervasive ignorance of the scriptures that he observed in both priests and lay people troubled him deeply. In a heated exchange with a cleric who argued against putting scripture in the hands of the common man, Tyndale vowed, “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough, shall know more of the Scripture than thou dost!”

    He sought the approval of church authorities to prepare a translation of the Bible in English so that all could read and apply the word of God. It was denied—the prevailing view being that direct access to the scriptures by any but the clergy threatened the authority of the church and was tantamount to casting “pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6).

    Tyndale nevertheless undertook the challenging work of translation. In 1524 he traveled to Germany, under an assumed name, where he lived much of the time in hiding, under constant threat of arrest. With the help of committed friends, Tyndale was able to publish English translations of the New Testament and later the Old Testament. The Bibles were smuggled into England, where they were in great demand and much prized by those who could get them. They were shared widely but in secret. The authorities burned all the copies they could find. Nevertheless, within three years of Tyndale’s death, God did indeed open King Henry VIII’s eyes, and with publication of what was called the “Great Bible,” the scriptures in English began to be publicly available. Tyndale’s work became the foundation for almost all future English translations of the Bible, most notably the King James Version.

    William Tyndale was not the first, nor the last, of those who in many countries and languages have sacrificed, even to the point of death, to bring the word of God out of obscurity. We owe them all a great debt of gratitude. We owe perhaps an even greater debt to those who faithfully recorded and preserved the word through the ages, often with painstaking labor and sacrifice….

    What did they know about the importance of scriptures that we also need to know? What did people in 16th-century England, who paid enormous sums and ran grave personal risks for access to a Bible, understand that we should also understand?

    In Tyndale’s day, scriptural ignorance abounded because people lacked access to the Bible, especially in a language they could understand. Today the Bible and other scripture are readily at hand, yet there is a growing scriptural illiteracy because people will not open the books. Consequently they have forgotten things their grandparents knew.

    Scripture tutors us in principles and moral values essential to maintaining civil society, including integrity, responsibility, selflessness, fidelity, and charity. In scripture, we find vivid portrayals of the blessings that come from honoring true principles, as well as the tragedies that befall when individuals and civilizations discard them. Where scriptural truths are ignored or abandoned, the essential moral core of society disintegrates and decay is close behind. In time, nothing is left to sustain the institutions that sustain society.

    In the end, the central purpose of all scripture is to fill our souls with faith in God the Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ—faith that They exist; faith in the Father’s plan for our immortality and eternal life; faith in the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which animates this plan of happiness; faith to make the gospel of Jesus Christ our way of life; and faith to come to know “the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [He has] sent” (John 17:3).

    [The Heavenly Words of God] flow to us almost constantly by television, radio, Internet, satellite, CD, DVD, [MP3,] and in print. I suppose that never in history has a people been blessed with such a quantity of holy writ. And not only that, but every man, woman, and child may possess and study his or her own personal copy of these sacred texts, most in his or her own language. How incredible such a thing would have seemed to the people of William Tyndale’s day and to the Saints of earlier dispensations! Surely with this blessing the Lord is telling us that our need for constant recourse to the scriptures is greater than in any previous time. May we feast continuously on the words of Christ that will tell us all things we should do!